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In-Car Advertising is Next
It’s not really any surprise that in-car ads are coming, but we don’t see them as an improvement in our driving lives. Conventional wisdom says our world is a never-ending rush of information and we live in a constant state of motion. We also don’t really want to pay for information; information is supposed to be nearly free, and our access unfettered. Further, with all this information coming in, we don’t really have time to bother sifting through it all.
Marketers to the rescue!


Newspapers, radio, TV, and the Internet have all taught us that information is cheap, it only costs the effort to sit through (or filter out) a few ads, and in-car infotainment systems are the next new advertising vehicle.
Under the guise of trying to be really helpful, advertisers are looking to reach you through your in-car navigation system. The software developers are pitching this as a way to offset further software development costs, make systems affordable, and as a workaround for monthly fees. The ability schedule an oil change from your car might be brought to you by Penzoil or Jiffy Lube. Or your hair appointment by Pantene. Or a search for a restaurant brings an ad for McDonald’s.
In-car ads sound annoying at best and a drive distraction at worst, but living with that kind of clutter elsewhere hasn’t slowed use in the slightest. Google and Yahoo list search results with sponsored links above non-sponsored, and it is an accepted part of the game.

Bland, Bland, and More Bland
What ends up buried in the list, though, is the local hardware store or your favorite family-run Thai restaurant. Listings for cool local places would be tougher to find, which might make it tougher for some to survive. Could be annoying to have be slowed by the McDonald’s ad and sort past the Wendy’s and Burger King listings when you’re looking for that great college town burger joint you just know is somewhere on the list. You remember roughly where it is and what the name sounds like, but it’s been ten years and a little navigation would help.
These smaller places aren’t likely to have the budget or access to use big-time navigation advertising in support of only a few locations; if they’re in the phone book they’re likely to be included in today’s points of interests lists. But maybe not so in the future. We’re already overrun with strip malls and chain restaurants; does something like this only make that situation worse?
For Convenience’ Sake, Wear a Target on Your Roof
In the future, allow your car to provide feedback about your driving habits, choices, and preferences, and it may repay you with more targeted advertising. Is making your life an open book to advertisers worth it to get ads you’re more likely to be interested in? And do you really feel that easily quantifiable?
Technology exists to save and share preferences, allowing for more finely targeted ads eve in cars. Save that your favorite food is Chinese or Mexican, and maybe the restaurant search puts Taco Bell or PF Chang at top instead of McDonald’s; advertisers pay if you navigate to their restaurant. Lowes and Home Depot show up when you look for home-improvement stores, but if the search triggered a Home Depot ad, with a discount code you can use right now, would you drive to the orange box?
The in-car advertising discussion is being positioned as crucial to offset the cost of developing better navigation systems, and to tailor information to your lifestyle. And don’t you want to be made a fuss of? To feel like the message in your car’s welcome screen was made just for you? Is it okay for your navigation system to display ads for Wall Street Journal if also gives you a tailored stock report on your commute home? Is sharing your preferences, including your weekly trip to the same golf course, and feeding anonymous databases worth coupons to your area’s new golf course?
Combine GPS, wireless internet, Bluetooth, and a hard-drive mapping system, the options seem endless. And marketers are chomping at the bit to use these systems to better target YOU. Don’t worry, it’s all in your best interest, to save you time by guiding your choice. They know they’re right for you, you just haven’t learned it yet.
I expected this blog to lash out against the proliferation of advertising and bemoan the fact we can’t get away from being marketed to these days. I don’t want my in-car navigation system squawking ads at me. Our landscape would be severely lessened if we drive out smaller restaurants and stores in our rush for sameness and 99-cent burgers.
Problem is, I’d be tilting at windmills. Americans have shown time and again that we are willing to allow advertising a more deep-rooted place in their entertainment and information sources, as long as it reduces the cost. Sure, we complain. In the end, we accept advertising as a necessary but unloved fact of life. Is there any reason to expect this to be any different?

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